Pope Francis has taken his first major decision by setting up an advisory board of cardinals from around the world, which includes U.S. Cardinal Sean O'Malley, to look into ways of reforming the Catholic Church, according to the Vatican.
The pope has appointed a group of eight cardinals who will help him bring changes in the church's administration, which has been plagued with scandals especially during the eight-year reign of Pope Benedict before he resigned two months ago, Reuters reported Saturday.
The eight prelates come from the United States, Italy, Chile, India, Germany, Democratic Republic of Congo, Australia, and Honduras, which point to Francis' intention to allow bishops from around the world more say in Vatican decisions that affect their areas.
The group will advise the pope in the governing of the Church in addition to making administrative changes. The eight include Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, the current governor of Vatican City; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; O'Malley of Boston, U.S.; George Pell of Sydney, Australia; and Oscar Andres Rodriquez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
An Italian archbishop, Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, will serve as the group's secretary. The cardinals will hold their first formal meeting in October in Rome. According to the Vatican, Pope Francis has already been in contact with them.
The group will also study changes to a constitution by the late Pope John Paul II called "Pastor Bonus," which gave the Curia its current structure in 1988. The last major reform of the Curia was carried out by Pope Paul VI in 1967.
Cardinals have earlier suggested changes to the Curia so that it becomes a model of good governance. One of those suggestions include introducing term limits on Vatican bureaucrats to prevent an atmosphere of "careerism."
The group is not a commission, committee or council, said the Rev. Thomas Rosica on behalf of the Vatican. The group has "no legislative power and its main function is to 'advise' the pope," he was quoted as saying. "The group will not in any way interfere in the normal functions of the Roman Curia, which helps the Pope in the daily governance of the Church."
After his election in March, the pope took the name of Francis, the most severe critic of the papacy before Martin Luther. He caused a ripple through the Catholic faithful when the day before Good Friday he washed the feet of a woman – a Serbian Muslim inmate at a prison in Rome.
Pope Francis is known for his pastoral skills and spirituality. He has urged leaders of the Church never to give in to discouragement, bitterness or pessimism but to keep focused on their mission. "Let us never give in to the pessimism, to that bitterness, that the devil places before us every day. Let us not give into pessimism and discouragement," he told the cardinals who chose him.
Francis has also told the cardinals that the Church must not become just another charitable group without its divine mission, urging they must stick to the faith's Gospel roots and shun modern temptations. When he addressed the media for the first time last month, the pope reminded Catholics that Jesus, not the pope, is at the center of the Church, which he said should be "poor, and for the poor."